Saturday, October 23, 2010

Hosting a Reformation Festival

Hosting a Reformation Festival – The Ultimate Autumn Celebration

If you’ve decided that sending the little ones out in scary costumes is no longer the way you wish to celebrate All Saints’ Eve (aka All Hallows’ Eve) on October 31, but you don’t want to gyp your kids out of some kind of autumn celebration, then you’ve come to the right spot.   

There are many fine things you can do to re-focus your family’s view of the end of October.    Someone years ago sent me old-fashioned games with a “fall festival” theme.   I’ve overhauled and given them a Reformation twist.   Hopefully your children and your friends will enjoy them, too.   

Reformation Festival Games

Guess How Many?!
Fill a quart jar with candy corn or candy pumpkins.   Place some small slips of paper & tiny pencils nearby, then your guests must write their name and guess of how many pieces of candy are in the jar!   Place the paper in a basket or other small jar.     Before the party is over, check which guest was closest and award the jar of candy to that person.

Memory Game
Place a few themed items on a tray:  a Bible, an image of Luther pounding theses to the church door, a hammer, nails, catechism, hymnbook, etc.   Guests get to look at the tray for about 30 seconds (depends on the age of the guests, adults could probably look for LESS time than six year olds!).   Guests must then write down as many items as they remember.  

Reform Reformation
Write a Reformation Festival word or phrase at the top of a paper (or do on your computer).   The idea is to make as many other words as possible using only the letters in the word or phrase.   Possible words might be “Happy Reformation” or “Reformation Festival” or “All Saints’ Day” or “Martin Luther.”    Possible phrases might be taken from Luther’s speechs like “Here I Stand” or from a hymn title like “A Mighty Fortress.”

Martin May I?
One child is Martin and faces the other guests who stand in a straight line.  Martin could be dressed in some kind of monk-like garb, for fun.  The players ask permission to move forward, and Martin grants permission by saying “Yes, you may…” or “No, you may not” and creatively describing the types of steps they may take:   mouse steps, elephant steps, etc.   Player who move when NOT given permission must go back to the line and start over.  First child to touch Martin is the next “it.”

Martin Says
Just like “Simon Says” one person directs the others to do various actions or movements.   Players are ONLY supposed to move if each direction is prefaced by the words “Martin says…to wave while hopping on one foot” or whatever.   Players who move when not “Martin says” are out.   Last one standing gets to be the next Martin.

Pin the Theses to the Church Door
Erect a large door (using brown kraft paper or better yet a real wooden door or just from brown construction paper or drawn on a large piece of tagboard).   Decide ahead of time how precise theses must be placed on the “door” OR put an “X” on the spot where you’d like players to attempt to pin their theses.   Print out and cut apart a bunch of the REAL theses (website given below), place in a small basket, along with some tacks or tape.   Each player takes a theses-slip, reads it to the other players, then is blindfolded and attempts to pin/tape it to the door.   The one coming closest to the X is the winner!


Gutenberg’s printing press was a great boon for spreading the Good News during the Reformation.  We are blessed now-days with the internet.   Here are a number of websites with more information about Martin Luther, other reformers, the Reformation OR ideas for Reformation Festivities.    

I’m not necessarily endorsing any of these sites or their theology, just offering them as sources for fun activities or information.   Cut-n-paste them into your web browser (I haven't figured out yet how to get them to be a click-through link--sorry!).   I’m sure you’ll find something fun to do with your family and friends.    

A general overview with more details than I’ve included in my blog:

Here’s a copy of Luther’s 95 Theses!!!

An uplifting website with a great selection of Reformation Festival ideas:

The “Old Lutheran” website is loaded with Reformation Ideas.   This page will take you to just about everything you could ever imagine for a week’s-worth-of-festivities!   Have fun!!!

Everything is here if you’re going to host a Reformation Festival, games, food ideas, the works!

This website covers ALL the bases so you just have to invite your friends and get things organized!

How about a skit?

Or a monologue from Martin’s wife . . .

Luther loved singing, and I bet he’d get a kick out of any of these ditties!

Also, google “95 Theses” to get images of Luther’s work, too.    Many images to chose from!!!

Homeschoolers or Sunday School teachers will love this website for all it’s “extra credit” available.  Click on the little ruby in front of the option, to click through to the documents.  Very neat!

One last word concerning the motivation for becoming different from the rest of the neighborhood and people at work and even at church.   God's Word tells us that we're to be "in" the world, but not "of" the world.  

 "For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.  
Live as children of light...and find out what pleases the Lord.
Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.  
For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret....
Be very careful, then, how you live--not as unwise but as wise, 
making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil....
Instead, be filled with the Spirit.
Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs....
in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."
Ephesians 5:8-20 NIV

If you were accused of being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?

All Saints'/All Hallows' Eve (October 31)

ALL SAINTS’ EVE – October 31
(aka All Hallows' Eve)
AND ALL SAINTS’ DAY – November 1

As mentioned in my earlier post, All Saints’ Day was established by the Roman Catholic Church during the Middle Ages as a way to remember those believers who had died in Christ.    Originally it was celebrated on May 1st, but the Church moved it to October 31st in an attempt to “christianize” the Druid harvest festival Samhain which honored the Lord of Death (see previous post for more on this festival).

A Word About "Saints"

Saints, as mentioned in numerous Bible passages, are those who believe in the Lord, those alive on earth now and those who have already died from ancient times until now.   Some churches teach that only very holy people can be “sainted” and raised to the highest glory after their death.   Others believe that saints are only those who have died a martyr’s death such as the early Christians who were executed for sport by the Romans in the coliseum games.  

For our purposes here, based on the way the term is used in the Bible, saints are all those since Adam & Eve who have gone before us having held firmly to their faith in the Messiah, as well as those here on Earth alive now who also are living their lives to God’s glory.     Listed far at the bottom of this post are some passages which shed light on this topic.


If you didn’t already know it, there are two groups of Christians:   Roman Catholics and Protestants.    Protestant denominations came about as a result of some rather abusive practices by the Catholic Church in the years before the Renaissance.    Reformers had protested against these “abuses” which made the church leaders mad, and usually the protestor (like John Hus) was executed summarily.    

The Time & The Place

The year was 1517 when lots of history was being made.  By that time Columbus was getting to be an old man, the Renaissance was going full-steam ahead, Gutenberg had invented the moveable-type printing press, Henry VIII was married or divorced, and composers & artists were all the rage throughout Europe.  

The Roman Catholic Church (btw “Catholic” means “universal’) was in the process of building a very large cathedral, St. Peter’s Basilica, which translated into a need for some very large piles of money to fund the construction and pay the workers.   So the Church fathers came up with this, uh, “stimulus” plan of granting reprieves (“indulgences”) from time-spent-in-Purgatory.   These were small pieces of paper, once paid for, guaranteed your loved one stuck in Purgatory would be released and sent heaven-ward.     

Get Out Of Jail Free!

There were very few Bibles available at this time, and the ones available were written in Latin which meant the common folk didn’t have a clue what the Bible REALLY said.   People in the pews believed whatever their priests told them.  And if the local priest said that you could pay for a piece of paper to release a loved one from Purgatory, well, by cracky, you couldn’t wait to line up and hand over your coins when the indulgence-seller (circus) arrived in your town!    

The Man in the Right Place & Right Time 

Martin Luther was a scholarly priest and university teacher by this time; in fact Luther was so popular that he was assigned to preach at the Town Church in Wittenberg.   Martin loved God’s Word and was very familiar with the Bible and knew from his studies that the Bible never mentions such a place as Purgatory.    In fact, he was reading the book of Romans and came across a passage in chapter 3 which says 
“…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified*  freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”   

*[declared ‘not guilty’]

Well, a light-bulb came on for Martin, and he realized that the Church was teaching things contrary to God’s Word.   This wasn’t the only thing about the Church’s teachings that bothered him, so Friar Martin wrote up a list of issues he wished to review and debate with the church leaders.   Following protocol for issuing a request to debate a matter, Martin Luther posted his 95 theses (debate-able issues or points) on the door of the church on the evening of All Saints Eve (October 31, 1517).    

The Plot Thickens!

Martin’s questions raised ethical points about the Church’s practices and doctrinal values.   Wisely, someone printed and distributed Martin’s 95 issues, and it spread like wild-fire over Germany first and then all of Europe.    And the leaders of the Church in Rome (Vatican) were NOT happy about this.   No, indeed!  They wasted no time in pouncing on Luther trying to shut him up.    The Church had become a powerful political force by this time, and issued all sorts of ultimatums to the lowly professor in Wittenburg.    But God is greater than any earthly man-made religion, and God protected Martin and his excellent work spread across Europe.

Excitement!   Drama!   Plots & Skullduggery!

It’s a great adventure story which led to the Protestant Reformation.    Here are a few highlights:   Martin’s life was threatened by religious fanatics, there was a friendly kidnapping where he spent a year in a castle busy as ever:   he translated the Bible into German so the common people could read it, and he wrote lyrics and music for many hymns so that parishioners could be involved in the worship services.    

Luther defended his position before political and church councils.   Eventually he was excommunicated for his refusal to recant (he stood on the Bible, rather than the man-made traditions).     

Spoiler alert:   Martin married an excommunicated nun (Katherina Von Bora), had a large family, took in boarders, continued teaching and preaching, and died in the Lord.


The Protestant denominations (Lutherans, Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, etc) all  trace their beginnings back to Martin Luther and other reformers who stood up to the abusive practices of the organized Church.     Martin got things started by posting those 95 Theses on the church door in Wittenberg, Germany on October 31, 1517.    The Christian Church celebrates this event on November 1—Reformation Day.

As promised earlier…..I’ll be posting some optional celebration ideas in my next post.   Perhaps you will opt to find another way to celebrate All Saints’ Eve (aka All Hallows’ Eve) and Reformation Day.   God’s blessings!


1Samuel 2:9
Psalm 16:3, 30:4, 31:23, 34:9, 116:15, 149:1, 5
Daniel 7:18
Romans 8:27
1Corinthians 6:2
Ephesians 1:15, 18, 6:18
Philemon 7
Revelation 5:8, 19:8  

Luther’s Catechism, by David P. Kuske, c2003, Northwestern Publishing House, Milwaukee, WI.
Family Celebrations:  Meeting Christ in Your Holidays & Special Occasions by Ann Hibbard, c1988, Wolgemuth & Hyatt, Brentwood, TN.
World Book Encyclopedia, c1989, Chicago, IL.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Autumn Celebrations - Especially If You're A Christian

Autumn CelebrationsEspecially If You’re a Christian

In the years when I raise a vegetable garden, I am very thankful when I notice the first blush of pink and gold on the trees on the hills and along the highway.   Like a huge sigh of relief, those colors signal the end of the garden and chores like weeding and canning or freezing garden produce.    

Even before the trees flame with bright gold and orange, and before acorns turn brown,  stores and farm markets set out their charming autumn displays:   big and little pumpkins, Indian corn and cornstalks, Mr. & Mrs. Scarecrow artfully propped nearby.    It’s hard to resist their clamoring to come home with you and decorate your front porch.       

The aisles in the stores also bulge with other decorations, less charming and more sinister-looking.   Skeletons.   Headstones.   Mummies.   Ghosts.    Whole aisles devoted to piles of individually wrapped candies and treats.     Magazines set aside entire issues for Halloween party food and decorations.   Second-hand shops re-arrange their whole floor plan to accommodate the racks of clothing for “costumes.”    Home-owners spray spider-web stuff on their porches and set up front yards to look like graveyards.

Why do you celebrate Halloween?   

Maybe you think Halloween is a harmless little evening of fun for yourself and your children.    They get to dress up.   Get some candy.   Mingle with friends.   What’s the harm in that?  

As a child, I went trick-r-treating and didn’t see anything harmful come of it (other than having my wits scared out of me the first time I saw a green-faced, warty-nosed witch with a pointy hat).  I didn’t turn into a devil worshipping maniac.  I never soaped a window or smashed a pumpkin.   

Still.   My hubby thought allowing our children to participate made light of the serious nature of the evil behind the celebration.  He said we were sending our children a mixed message.   I knew (in my heart) what he said was true, but I didn’t agree with him or submit to his wishes, and he reluctantly shrugged his shoulders.    So another year went by when the kids went and begged for candy, dressed like little tigers and cowboys.  

Then, a friend came into my life.   She was soft-spoken and gentle.  The way she asked questions, well, you couldn’t get mad at her because her love for the Lord was so evident in everything she said and did.     Because she was well-grounded in God’s Word, her soft-spoken words and quiet actions had that much more strength.


She challenged my thinking in such a way that made me stop and THINK.   Why was I clinging to this worldly holiday that glorified death and evil?    She handed me a book with ideas for celebrating holidays in a way that focused on Christ.  (See below.)

If you participate in this celebration of Halloween, I’d like to challenge your thinking about this “holiday” the way my soft-spoken friend challenged me.    Especially if you are a Christian.   Especially if you want your children to realize that being a Christian means being different from the rest of the world.    Especially if you expect your children (at some point) to stand up to temptations on the Road of Life.

I know what her challenge did for me.   And I hope you'll see the benefits to your family, too.

A BIT OF HISTORY FIRST with a few editorial comments thrown in

The celebration of Halloween goes back into the dark halls of ancient history.    It didn’t start out as “Halloween.”    I’m sure we could trace it all the way back to the serpent in the Garden of Eden if we tried.    Anyway, historians report that Druids were the high priests of a religious group among the Celtic people living in northern France and the British Isles.  When the Roman Empire advanced northward, the Celts and Druids receded into the murky pages of history.  They’re long gone, but their celebrations aren’t:  May Day on May 1st and Samhain on Oct 31st  are still with us.  

The Druids worshiped nature and imbued it with supernatural qualities and spiritual significance.   They also worshiped the Sun God and the Lord of Death.   During Samhain they paid tribute to the Lord of Death and built large bonfires around which they would sing and dance and some would dash through the flames.   In the days prior to the bonfire, children went around begging for material to burn in the fire.   Sounds slightly familiar, yes?

Samhain was a night on which bats, black cats, elves, and fairies stalked about.    The concept of witches developed among the Druids from their belief that women sold themselves to the Devil.   Ghosts were considered to be the souls of the dead.  

According to the Druids, the souls of the wicked dead inhabited the bodies of living people, and these needed to be entertained, placated and appeased.   These “possessed” people would then go throughout the countryside playing “trick or treat.”   If the country folk didn’t provide suitable food, shelter or entertainment, the “possessed” would vandalize or destroy property and cast spells on their homes.   In Wales, ghastly faces were carved into gourds, lighted and then carried along by the “trick or treaters” to aid in spooking the country people.   This also sounds vaguely familiar.

Samhain also marked the beginning of the new year, so predictions of the coming year and fortune-telling became an important part of the festivities.   Occult practices and beliefs include astrology, fortune-telling, magic, and other paranormal activity.

They had a lot going on, these nature-worshipping Druids.   

Enter the Romans whose empire expanded into northern Europe.    Their harvest festival honoring the fruit goddess, Pomona, mingled with those of the Druids.  Bobbing for apples and drinking cider was prominent.   They also had home decor covered with their fruit centerpieces featuring nuts and berries.  All sorts of rowdy behavior and pranks intermingled.

Cultural diversity at it’s finest!?

Enter the Roman Catholic Church with their “All Hallows’ Day” on May 1 (yes, that's the right date!).    This was a Christian celebration to honor those who had died in Christ.    By the 7th century the Church had reached northward into present day Germany and Scandinavia.    In order to offset the pagan practices surrounding Samhain, Pope Gregory III (8th century) designated November 1st as “All Hallows’ Day.”   

So, now we have the northern tribes with their October 31st celebration of the dead, but now it was somehow “Christianized.”   Hmmm.

By the Middle Ages, October 31st was known as All Hallows’ E’en (E’en represented “evening”---similar to our Christmas Eve, the day before the “Day”).    Sadly, All Saints’ Day celebrations did not displace Halloween, and in fact the two events became more intermingled.

Since Halloween was not particularly a Protestant or Anglo-Saxon feast, Halloween was not celebrated to any great extent during the early years of America’s history.   However, as more Irish Catholics immigrated to America in the 1840’s and 1850’s, the celebration came with them.  

The practice of carving pumpkins into jack-o-lanterns comes from an Irish legend of an Irishman named Jack who lured the devil up a tree to fetch an apple, then cut the sign of the cross on the bark to prevent Satan from coming down.   Jack then forced Satan to promise never to seek his soul.   When Jack died, he was turned away from Heaven because of his drunken and rowdy ways.   He then sought out Satan who would also have no part of him.   As Jack was leaving, Satan threw a hot coal from the fires of hell which Jack caught with the turnip he was eating.    Jack has been wandering the Earth ever since, seeking a place to rest, toting his own jack-o-lantern.

Halloween is also the highest feast day within the practices of witchcraft when worshipers gather to honor their master, Satan.   


All Saints’ Eve and Day (in and of itself) is a good and worthy celebration if observed in a Biblical (God pleasing) manner.    Indeed, the Bible itself lists some of the “saints” worth emulating (not worshiping, but IMITATING) because of their great faith.   You can find this Bible Hall of Fame in the 11th chapter of Hebrews.  The list includes patriarchs like Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, and Moses; judges like Gideon and Samson; King David; Samuel and the prophets.     In chapter 12 of Hebrews, the writer encourages us further:  

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses {the saints}, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin which so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.   Let us fix our eyes on Jesus….”

TOMORROW . . . suggestions for ways to celebrate 
All Saints’ Day, November 1st... 
and ways to handle October 31st, too.    


Celebrations by Becky Stevens Cordello, c1977, Butterick Publishing, NY.
Family Celebrations:  Meeting Christ in Your Holidays & Special Occasions by Ann Hibbard, c1988, Wolgemuth & Hyatt, Brentwood, TN.
World Book Encyclopedia, c1989, Chicago, IL.